Servo: Tales from the Graveyard Shift

David Goodwin

Servo: Tales from the Graveyard Shift
Hachette Australia
28 February 2024

Servo: Tales from the Graveyard Shift

David Goodwin

Most of us have done our time in the retail trenches, but service stations are undoubtedly the frontline, as Melburnian David Goodwin found out when he started working the weekend graveyard shift at his local servo.

From his very first night shift, David absorbed a consistent level of mind-bending lunacy, encountering everything from giant shoplifting bees and balaclava-clad goons hurling cordial-filled water bombs from the sunroof of their BMW, to anarcho-goths high on MDMA releasing large rats into the store from their matching Harry Potter backpacks.

Over the years, David grew to love his mad servo, handing out free pies and chocolate bars on the sly as he grew a backbone and became street smart. Amidst the unrelenting chaos, he eventually made it out of the servo circus - and lived to tell the tale.

For anyone who's ever toiled under the unforgiving fluorescent lights of a customer service job, Servo is a side-splitting and darkly mesmeric coming-of-age story from behind the anti-jump wire that will have you gritting your teeth, then cackling at the absurdity, idiocy and utterly beguiling strangeness of those who only come out at night.


What’s the worst job you’ve ever had? Maybe a dead-end retail role, or a nightmare stint in hospitality? For David Goodwin, that answer is as clear as the glass on a pair of automatic doors. Fresh out of high school and looking for work, he thought he’d lucked out with an easy, brainless gig. Little did he know he was facing six years of service at the apotheosis of bad jobs: the graveyard shift at a Werribee Servo. What follows is an outlandish descent into madness and back to reality as Goodwin details his experiences on the frontlines of Melbourne’s derelict, drug-addled and deranged, writing with no shortage of humour and linguistic flair.

Goodwin is a natural-born storyteller, effortlessly compelling whether he’s talking about the draconian policies of his bosses, the mad ramblings of his regulars or his own forays into chemical-induced debauchery. On their own, each anecdote feels impossibly strange, but taken together, they build a convincingly absurd world where ravers and tradies cross paths under the watchful gaze of the most jaded cashier known to man. It helps that Goodwin is clearly an unabashed language lover, generously seasoning his prose with casual eloquence and vivid metaphors – after a while you just start to hear Goodwin’s lively voice taking you along for the ride, like an old friend at the pub.

However, the true secret to Servo’s brilliance is that beneath its irreverent, gonzo stylings it’s actually a heartfelt, coming-of-age memoir. Goodwin’s journey from wide-eyed rookie to seasoned ‘console operator’ is full of euphoric highs and bone-tired lows; a journey which takes him to dingy clubs and to magnificent forests, but always returns him to one place. An outer-suburbs servo might not be the likeliest place to discover your place in the world, but that’s exactly what Goodwin does as he fights to survive each sleepless shift while keeping his sanity (mostly) unscathed.

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